Dushanbe has a number of museums. Should you visit any of them? We review the evidence.
National Museum of Tajikistan
The National Museum has 4 floors of exhibits on Tajik geology, flora and fauna, culture as well as artifacts and historical reconstructions. While not overly impressive, and housed in a building at least 5 times bigger than necessary, the museum does give a decent overview of Tajikistan’s history and culture for the uninitiated – provided you keep in mind whose idea of history you are looking at.
Labels and signs are mostly in Russian or Tajik; some exhibits have signage in halting English. Getting a guide does make sense if you want more background.
Many of the historical artifacts on offer are (decent) copies, including the Oxus treasure (original in the British Museum) and the Reclining Buddha (original in the Museum of Antiquities), but the beautiful frescoes from ancient Panjakent are the real deal. Suzanis, paintings and musical instruments give a flavour of Tajik folk culture.
- Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10-16, on Sunday 11-15. Closed Mondays. Staff likes to close early.
- Entrance fee: 25 somoni for foreigners
- Location: on the north side of Rudaki Park (Gmaps)
Museum of Antiquities
The older and much smaller, but more expensive National Museum of Antiquities has selected artifacts from Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hellenistic, Islamic and Pamir cultures displayed on 2 floors. You can see many of the artifacts in the National Museum for real (or are the copies here? It’s not always clear).
The highlight here is the original Reclining Buddha, a 13 meter statue of Buddha peacefully lying on his right side from the Kushan era (500 CE), excavated from Ajina-Tepe. Stones with Mughal era scriptures and Shiva Parwati statues show more links to Indian culture.
Burial markers, ceramics, tapestries, carved ivory and other artifacts illustrate the rich blending of cultures influencing Tajikistan over the ages. Also of note is “the princess”, a flexed burial with beads and other grave goods from an archaeological site in Sarazm near Panjakent.
Tour guides are available in Russian and English. Few exhibits have notes in a foreign language, so a guide is important to make sense of what you are seeing.
- Opening hours: 9-17 Tuesday to Saturday, 9-13 Sunday and closed on Mondays.
- Entrance fee: 50 somoni.
- Location: at the intersection of Istravshan Street and Academics Rajabov Street (Gmaps)
Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments
About 50 music instruments from Tajikistan are crammed into a small room. If no one is around who wants to give you a little demonstration, this will be an underwhelming experience. If, on the other hand, there is someone keen to tell you more and play the instruments, the musical instruments museum can be a wonderful surprise.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
- Entrance fee: 10 somoni
- Location: OSM
The household-sized Tursunzoda Literature Museum (Gmaps) and the Shahidi Museum of Musical Culture (a short walk to the east, but not in any online maps – exact address welcome) are both outside the centre, but nearby Mehrgon Bazaar.
The Ethnographic museum is permanently closed.